The Gateway GT5674 is the second mainstream desktop we've reviewed with a quad-core processor, following the Acer Aspire M5100 we tested in March. We've seen our share of high-end, high-priced gaming boxes with quad-core CPUs recently, but this technology has quickly trickled down to much more affordable desktops for mainstream buyers. The question remains, does the mainstream user need a quad-core PC? In most cases, we'd argue no. Nvidia would tell you the same thing, but it has a horse in this race and would like to sell you a graphics card with the money you save from not overbuying on an Intel or AMD CPU. We stop short of suggesting discrete graphics for everyone and give the advice of looking for a PC with a decent dual-core chip, at least 2GB of RAM, and a PCI Express graphics slot for an easy and effective upgrade should you need it on down the road. That said, the quad-core Gateway GT5674 proved its worth in CNET Labs testing, offering excellent bang for the buck along with a dose of future proofing--who knows, there could be a flood of applications out in a year or two that will take advantage of all four cores. As it stands today, we think a budget system like the eMachines T5254 or the Dell Inspiron 530 will suffice for most looking for a general-purpose desktop.
|Gateway GT5674||eMachines T5254|
|CPU||2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500||2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+|
|Memory||3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM||2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE||256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE|
|Hard drive||500GB 7,200rpm||500GB 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||16x dual-layer DVD burner||Blu-Ray/HD DVD player with LightScribe DVD burner|
|Operating system||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1||Windows Vista Home Premium|
The $400 eMachines T5254 and the $539 Dell Inspiron 530 provides enough muscle for basic computing tasks such as running Microsoft Office applications, iTunes, and even light photo and video editing. Home users who regularly work in Photoshop or constantly find themselves multitasking, however, will get some benefit from a quad-core system.
Few consumer applications can take advantage of four cores, so you're likely to find that the jump from two cores to four isn't nearly as substantial as the move from one core to two. That said, our tests show that the Gateway GT5674 delivers excellent bang for the buck. On our benchmarks, it and the Acer Aspire M5100 were able to separate themselves from the dual-core pack on our multimedia multitasking test and the multi-core Cinebench test. The Gateway GT5674 performed well on our Photoshop CS3 benchmark as well, but the dual-core HP Pavilion Slimline s3330f trailed only slightly while placing ahead of the quad-core Aspire M5100. In the Slimline's favor is clockspeed: its Athlon X2 5400+ chip runs at 2.8GHz to the Phenom 9500's 2.2GHz clockspeed, which helped it best both quad-core systems on our iTunes test. Though our Slimline s3330f review unit featured a now-outdated Blu-ray/HD DVD drive and TV tuner, if you remove that roughly $200 worth of add-ons, its price draws closer to that of the Gateway or Acer.
With an integrated Nvidia graphics chip that borrows memory from main system memory, the Gateway GT5674 should not be confused with a bargain gaming system. Then again, it could quickly become such a machine should you pop a graphics card in the waiting x16 PCI Express slot. Note that the system's 300-watt power supply will limit your options; be sure to note the power requirements of a card before purchase.
Aside from its quad-core 2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500 processor, generous 3GB of RAM, and roomy 500GB hard drive, the Gateway GT5674 is about as basic a PC as you'll find. The black-and-silver midtower chassis is unobtrusive and supplies a multiformat media card reader and a pair of USB 2.0 ports conveniently located at the very top of the front panel (four more USB 2.0 ports are around back). Behind a sliding plastic panel in the center of the front panel hides a slot for a hot-swappable portable media drive and headphone and microphone jacks.
Inside the case, you'll find open bays for a second optical drive and a second hard drive. The hard drive bays face the side of the case, making replacements or upgrades an easy maneuver. You'll find two open x1 PCI Express slots and a modem card occupying the lone PCI slot. What you won't find is Bluetooth as you get with the Dell Inspiron 530 or an integrate Wi-Fi antenna as you get with the HP Slimline. Even the Acer Aspire M5100's sparse feature set includes an unexpected HDMI port. To Gateway's credit, the system comes relatively free of bloatware with only two trailware icons--for eBay and AOL--listed among the desktop icons.
Completing the Gateway GT5674's package is a keyboard with a pleather wrist rest and somewhat squishy keys, an optical mouse, and a two-piece speaker set. Gateway backs the system with a one-year parts-and-labor warranty. The GT5674 is a retail model sold at Best Buy and Circuit City, but since Gateway got out of the customization business, you'll find fixed configurations sold direct from its Web site as well.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)